NSFAS Loses Millions To Fraud As Nzimande Denies Any Role In Wrongdoing

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More than a million students rely on funding from NSFAS to purchase basic goods and pay for rent while they study. Challenges with the bursary scheme's administration affects thousands of students placing significant pressure on those in power. 


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The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has lost millions of rands due to corruption and maladministration, as admitted by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande last week. 

In 2024, NSFAS received over R53 billion from the National Treasury to provide financial aid to students enrolled in approved courses at universities and TVET colleges in South Africa. 

Nzimande revealed that more than R21.4 million has been lost through detected fraud and maladministration, with none of the funds recovered yet. The NSFAS has reported 14 matters of alleged fraud to the South African Police Service (SAPS).

Nzimande Denies Role In NSFAS Wrongdoing 

Nzimande denied allegations of personal gain and efforts to discredit his governance efforts at NSFAS, challenging detractors to provide credible evidence.

Earlier this year, Nzimande rubbished reports that he received kickbacks for the awarding of a lucrative NSFAS tender. A news article published by a popular publication has once again cast concerns over the role of Nzimande or his influence in the awarding of NSFAS contracts. 

He questioned the timing and motives behind the publication of negative articles, suggesting political opportunism ahead of elections.

It is also becoming evident that some sections of the media, working with some political opportunists, are hell-bent on weaponizing the institutional weaknesses of NSFAS to fuel their anti-Nzimande campaign.

Nzimande has called for evidence to be provided of any wrongdoing he committed. 

The Minister challenges his detractors to produce credible evidence of his involvement in any unethical activities at NSFAS. 

NSFAS Challenges And Action

In February 2024 Parliament demanded answers for various issues plaguing NSFAS, including significantly delayed annual reports and financial woes highlighted by the Auditor-General. After four years of qualified audits, NSFAS received an adverse audit opinion, the worst possible rating. 

The report blamed "inadequate organisational capacity and systems" for the financial woes. 

NSFAS's rapid growth since 2018 outpaced its ability to manage its resources effectively. Despite years of warnings about internal control deficiencies, the organisation kept expanding its responsibilities without addressing these weaknesses. 

The Parliamentary Committee members also criticised NSFAS' 2021/22 annual report for lacking crucial details on resource utilisation and containing inconsistencies. 

Further concerns arose over the student accommodation pilot project. Accreditation of service providers remains a major hurdle, with NSFAS citing capacity challenges. Committee members expressed concern about the organisation's ability to expedite the process.

A separate investigation into the NSFAS board chairperson Earnst Khosa was also underway at the time. The investigation into Khosa came after audio recordings were made public indicating alleged corruption. These were the accusations Nzimande denied this week. 

In April 2024, Khosa resigned hours before the NSFAS board was fired by Minister Nzimande. 

Nzimande cited several factors for firing the board and placing NSFAS under administration.  This included allowance payment challenges and failure of the board to implement the recommendations of the Werkmans report. 

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NSFAS offering loans

Finally, in 2024 NSFAS began offering funding for missing middle students. However, the NSFAS application period was very short and only a few applicants managed to apply.

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